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Teddy Kaczynski is a fucking moron

I've never, in the past, been particularly impressed by beatboxing.

I've never been particualrly impressed by neo-Luddites, either, particularly the irrationally violent neo-Luddites like Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski.

I'll get to him in a second; these things are related, I promise.

But first: beatboxing. If you're not familiar with it, it's a musical style involving making percussion sounds only with the performer's mouth.

Which is not something I've ever found all that interesting. Yes, it takes skill to do it well--but skill alone isn't sufficient to make something compelling to me.

I tend toward music that has something meaningful to say. If someone is going to go through the effort of creating music, it should be because that person has something which he feels needs to be expressed. This is why I don't much care for the bulk of pop music in general; "I want to hold your haaaaaaand" and "Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I'm hot for teacher" don't qualify, to my mind, as particularly compelling insights into the human condition1.

Beatboxing is particularly bad in this regard because the performer is, in a very literal way, incapable of expressing anything else while doing it.

A lot of the music I listen to is created by groups that are actually just one person or a small number of people. I tend not to like music by large bands; a classic example, for me, is Fleetwood Mac, the 60s/70s/80s band whose music tends to sound like it was assembled by committee. This also relates to the notion of music in the service of expressing some idea; when music is put together by a number of people, the message gets muddled.

Yes, this is actually about Ted Kaczynski, I swear.

I tend to be fascinated by the process by which music is made. When I listen, say, to "A Quiet Anthem" by one of my current favorite bands, Aesthetic Perfection (a song which reminds me a great deal in theme to the book Use of Weapons, which I've previously discussed, but I digress), I'm always curious about the mechanics of how the song was put together. Aesthetic Perfection is just one guy, and the stuff he does is really interesting, structurally and in theme.

When dayo posted a video of a street performer calling himself DubFX, I was absolutely amazed. This guy has got talent by the metric asston, and an easy, comfortable familiarity with technology on top of that. He uses a sampling and looping machine to record his beatboxing, then layers harmony and lyrics on top of that.

And he's got some neat things to say.

Check out this video. If you're not really interested in the process, skip ahead to about 2 minutes and 10 seconds in, when the preliminary layering is done and the song itself starts.

Now we get to the part where Teddy Kaczynski is a fucking moron.

Kaczynski, as you may recall, is the Harvard-educated mathematician who decided one day that (a) modern technology was destroying the souls of all humanity and (b) the best way to address this problem was to send pipe bombs to scientists, heads of public relations firms, and airlines.

The disconnect between part (a) and part (b) is notable in its own right, and is further evidence that Mr. Kaczynski is a fucking moron, but that's a whole rant in its own right and is beyond the scope of this post.

Ahem. Anyway...

If you watch this video, you're struck with (or at least, I was struck with) a deep sense of warmth and humanness. This is a person who is using a piece of sophisticated technology to extend his ability to express a very human message.

At one point, Ted Kaczynski took some time off from mailing bombs to people to write a rambling and in some places barely coherent 35,000-word long manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, about the evils of technology and the various ways in which it supposedly undermined human freedom2 and dignity.

I'll save you from reading the whole thing--and it's an incredibly tedious slog, oh yes it is. Basically, it comes down to "technology is bad because even though it makes our lives better, we no longer have complete control over every aspect of our own survival." Apparently, Teddy is somewhat oblivious to the fact that we don't have complete control over every aspect of our own survival even in pre-technological societies; occasionally, the random prowling leopard has input over certain critical aspects of a luckless person's future. But no matter.

To be fair to Mr. Kaczynski--and it is very hard to be fair to Mr. Kaczynski--he had the courage of his convictions. When he got hold of this notion that technology is bad, he followed it through to its illogical conclusion, and moved to a shack he built himself in Montana3 without running water or electricity, where he lived a quiet life of chopping wood, hunting game, shitting in holes he dug in the ground, and serial killing.

Many of his supporters in the neo-Luddite community communicate with one another via email and by postings on neo-Luddite Usenet groups like the one devoted to Ted Kaczynski. This takes "missing the point" to a breathtaking new level; the unintentional irony here can drop a charging herd of rhinos at ninety paces.

But I digress.

The notion that industrialization and technology are bad isn't new. People have written all sorts of books about it, and occasionally some shmoo has decided to turn it into a revolution. Pol Pot, the leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge party in Cambodia, took these ideas to the next level; he opposed all forms of technology and industrialization across the board (going so far in his anti-intellectualism that toward the end of his regime he started executing anyone who had a college degree or wore glasses), and attempted to create an agrarian Utopia by renouncing all of industrialization and moving the entire population out onto collective farms.

It worked about as well as you'd expect; almost a quarter of the country's population died or were executed. About par for the course, really.

Kaczynski, Pol Pot, and others like him are fucking idiots in no small part because they don't understand what technology is. These people see technology of and by itself as inherently evil and dehumanizing--a view shared, to a lesser degree, by a startling number of people who really ought to know better.

Technology is simply ways of doing things. The flink knife? That's technology. Cooking food? Using a pointed stick instead of digging in the dirt with your hands when you're planting crops? Yep, technology. People do these things because doing them makes their lives better, not because some sinister evil force makes them.

Technology is not dehumanizing; just the opposite. It is the inherently human product of inherently human endeavor. The bizarre and misguided notion that technology is anti-humanity is as twisted and as stupid as the notion that a beehive, the product of the work of bees, is somehow anti-bee.

That's some world-class stupidity, it is.

Kaczynski wrote in his manifesto that people banding together in large groups is Bad And Wrong, because as soon as you depend on anyone else for something, you are no longer free. He didn't get the obvious--people band together in groups because doing this lifts a burden off of them. If I make clothes and George raises food, I no longer have to raise food, and George no longer has to make clothes. Shared work for mutual benefit makes everyone's lives easier. Today we enjoy unprecedented amounts of free time to do things we want to do rather than things we must do to secure our own survival; from where I'm standing, that's the opposite of "slavery."

And because of that, no anti-technologist revolution would ever succeed. Thechnology is written into our genes; it's a part of our evolutionary heritage. Our big brains are tools of survival.

Even if someone were to take over the earth and return all of us to agrarianism (well, those of us left alive--agrarian societies could only support a fraction of the number of people currently on the planet, so most of us would have to be killed to make it happen), it would not be very long before someone said "Hey! If I use this stick instead of my hands, I can plant more food!" and someone else said "Hey, check this out--if I lash two sticks together on the bottom of this plank of wood, I can plant even more food!"

I have a great deal of respect for the way that DubFX uses technology--as an empowering tool to facilitate human expression.

I like his music a lot. There's a ton of it on YouTube, and all of it is warm and relentlessly optimistic.

One of the things I've noticed about anti-technologists and transhumanists is that the former tend to be implacable in their pessimism, while the latter tend to be highly optimistic and human-centered.

DubFX uses technology in an easy, comfortable way--watching him perform, it's as if the sampling board has become a natural extension of his own talent, which allows him to express himself effortlessly.

I think there's something significant about. Anti-intellectuals and anti-technologists tend to be uncomfortable around the notion of learning new things--particularly learning how to use new things--and tend to project that discomfort outward, beliving it to be a symptom of something wrong with all of society.

Not that that's anything new. Sex-negative folks and homophobes do the same sort of thing, I reckon; it seems to be an enduring human trait that whatever makes us personally feel uncomfortable becomes something that is wrong with the world, something to be fixed--at the barrel of a gun, if necessary.

Anti-technologists tend to stop at the point where their own discomfort ends. Teddy Kaczynski didn't like computers but had no particular objections to using a manual typewriter--a device whose existence became possible only after the Industrial Revolution, with its precise metal casting and manufacturing. His misguided fans today use their computers to discuss the end of technology on Usenet and download neo-Luddite podcasts (Yes! There are such things!) on their iPhones.

The irony, it kills.

It seems to me that people who embrace technology don't embrace bombs or guns. I can't recall ever seeing a headline reading "Transhumanist convicted of murderous pro-technology spree." Those who embrace technology see it as a way to empower human beings--a tool for allowing us to make more choices than we could without it.

The original Luddies went down in history as a damp squib. They broke some property and killed some people, but they were in the end unable to prevent the Industrial Revolution. Frankly, I'm glad they were so impotent. In their idealized society, we couldn't even have this conversation...nor would I be able to take time off from laboring for my own survival to talk about it even if I wanted to.

I write a great deal about the liberating and empowering abilities of technology. People like DubFX turn those ideas into art.

1 An argument could be made, I suppose, for the notion that being hot for teacher is an enduring part of our shared human experience. In my case, it was my high-school French teacher, cliched as that might sound. In my own defense, however, she was hot.

2 For a very narrow and relentlessly peculiar definition of "freedom," which takes six rather lengthy paragraphs in the manifesto to explain.

3 Before that, he lived in his parents' basement. I swear I am not making this up.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 30th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)

I have to find something for you... give me a second.

Here it is: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104196393

One of the things I love about Music - is the way people's brains interact with it. It's an expression that is as wide and as varied as ones brain can open itself up to. I LOVE this. Someone should do a study of people who practice a wide variety of sexual techniques and their relationship to music. How eclectic they are.

As for the other part of your article, the idiots - there will always be so. G. Gordon Liddy remarked on the radio that Sonya SotoMayor would be an awful justice because, for the love of God, if she was menstruating you wouldn't know WHAT kind of law was going to be passed. He said this... ON THE RADIO. In public!!!! This little factoid hasn't left my brain in 3 days. That yes, there are still men who look at women in this fashion. ::headdesk:: The point being - as long as we keep talking about them, the idiots in this world will have no power. Hopefully, anyway.
May. 31st, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
Neat link! I watched that guy's YouTube videos. :)

G. Gordon Liddy remarked on the radio that Sonya SotoMayor would be an awful justice because, for the love of God, if she was menstruating you wouldn't know WHAT kind of law was going to be passed.


Wow. I'm...wow.
May. 30th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Hey, you got your technology in my classical music...
Zoe Keating and Loop!Station do this with a cello and an upright bass, respectively.
May. 30th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
1. I HAVE to get that guy's music.

2. Are you familiar with Kenneth Burke's Definition of Humans at all?
May. 31st, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, his music ROCKS! And no, I'm not; I'm actually not familiar with Kenneth Burke at all.
(no subject) - margoeve - Jun. 2nd, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 30th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
I have never understood the idea that technology removes freedoms, and that by doing without you gain freedom. I am surrounded nearly all day by modern technology, and through that technology I have freedoms undreamed of in a pre-industrial world. I don't have complete and utter control over much of the vast world-wide technological infrastructure that supports me, but there has never been a time that any one person, or even humanity as a whole, has not been at the mercy of a world they couldn't control. The pre-industrial fisherman has no way of knowing about the hurricane that's going to hit in a day, and no way to evacuate his family even if he did. Today he'll know about it well in advance and be well away and safe when it hits. He can't control the satellite network that spotted the storm, or the supply of oil that enables him to drive to safety, but the existence of those technologies give him options he didn't have before. And he still has the option to ignore them and stay behind to die if he wishes.

Ironically, the only thing I can think of that would give individual humans total, god-like control over their own existence without need for other humans, would be some kind of amazing technological singularity beyond the wildest dreams of the most optimistic transhumanists.
May. 31st, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
When Kaczynski uses the word "freedom," he's not using it in any sort of dictionary sense at all. His choice of the word "freedom" strikes me as a rhetorical trick; if you start talking about "freedom," you're unlikely to find anyone who says "Freddom? Oh, I'm against that. I don't think freedom is a good thing," so as a rhetorical device it can seem to generate assent that otherwise might not exist.

Plus, y'know, he's a fucking moron. )
May. 31st, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
I'll get to him in a second; these things are related, I promise.

I think the main reason I'd never be able to write essays with any consistency is I'd twig onto my own common writing tricks way quickly, and then wouldn't be able to write like that any more.
May. 31st, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
Awareness of your own writing techniques is a feature, not a bug! It allows oyu to use them more consciously and effectively.
(Deleted comment)
May. 31st, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
The thing about large-scale farming, though, is that it enables feeding a apopulation of six and a half billion people from the labor of a small percentage of the population, freeing up a very large number of folks who would otherwise have to spend their time producing food to do other things. I see folks condemning large-scale farming often, but I've never quite understood why.
(no subject) - virginia_fell - May. 31st, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 31st, 2009 04:42 am (UTC)
YAY! Good post is good!

Two comments:

1. There's something somewhat contradictory in your first part on music, although it is entirely a result of my own opinion. XD

You say:

I tend toward music that has something meaningful to say. If someone is going to go through the effort of creating music, it should be because that person has something which he feels needs to be expressed.

And then you reference The Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand". It seems to me like this would be an example of something a person "feels needs to be expressed". It is true, however, that one of the Beatles' feelings of love toward someone may not be meaningful to, say, you or someone else who has no personal relation to them, but it was probably meaningful to one of the Beatles back when it was written.

Of course, it is your opinion, you're perfectly free to have it; I just thought that maybe you were ruling out an otherwise interesting field of music (ie, music designed to relate one person's emotions).

2. Since I grew up in one of the most overly polite and favor-doing parts of America (ie, Southwest Virginia. Ignorant, inbred, and helpful as hell), I spent a large-ish section of my youth ruminating on the nature of human interaction around gift-giving and division of labor, which mildly relates to the ideas of technology as removing freedom. It's kinda too long to write out in a comment, but I'm going to jump on it in a journal post. So keep a look out for your name being mentioned! :D
May. 31st, 2009 08:44 am (UTC)
(no subject) - joreth - Jun. 1st, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 31st, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
nice - can i link this?

and a semi-related note re: aesthetic perfection

at least onstage he performs with 2-3 other people, and he performs live with several of the same people in other bands so i think some of his process may involve that knowledge and skill set; also, in each of the bands i've seen him with he's doing different things (keyboard, percussion, vocals)

finally, if you get the chance go see any/all of his projects (a.p., necessary response; but he also played w/ system syn last time i saw him) live - he's got amazing stage presence and especially compared to a lot of other goth/industrial/ebm groups i've seen they put on a hell of a show
May. 31st, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
I've seen Necessary Response in Chicago, and it was an awesome show. Never seen him perform as AP.

He had one keyboardist with him when I saw him. The impression I get from his music (and from similar bands like Nine Inch Nails) is that even when they use other performers, in the studio or on stage, the song you're hearing is still inherent;y one person's vision.
May. 31st, 2009 07:05 am (UTC)
I remember on an unmoderated message board a few years ago there was some guy who kept insisting that "the essence of freedom is genetic monogamy" and wrote a short manifesto about how the world would be perfect if we outlawed divorce and jailed parents for having kids out of wedlock and put such kids up for adoption. Also, no gay marriage and death penalty for illegal aliens. He was not at all clear on why, exactly, apparently taking it for granted that all right-thinking people would consider things like divorce and out-of-wedlock birth to be forms of supreme irresponsibility that erodes the rights and freedoms of others. Or something like that, I couldn't figure out what sort of mindset was involved there at all. So when it comes to what constitutes "freedom", there are some pretty out-there viewpoints, though a lot of them are probably held by people who are in serious need of medication.

On the technology front, I do have some hint on how discomfort with new technology might be felt by some as a possible "loss of freedom". Specifically, my mother laments on how the constant changing of technology makes it so that things are more difficult to get by doing things in ways that are comfortable and familiar to her. It's like she's being slowly "cut off" from the ways that she *wants* to do things. Never mind that there are now more options, the ones which "feel right" are less available or harder to use effectively.

(Sort of like, as an analogy, if there was only chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavor. Later on, chocolate disappears, but pistachio and butterscotch are now available. If someone never heard of the new ones or wouldn't even consider trying them because they sound "weird", then it would seem like their options have dropped to two even though it's now actually four. Is this making any sense?)
May. 31st, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
Also, I just remembered that "freedom is genetic monogamy" guy claimed that "polygamists" (by which he seemed to be lumping male bigamists, male polyamorists, and guys who cheat on their spouse and/or girlfriend into one group, and ignoring their female equivalents) were "destroying the freedom to find a mate" by taking up the available women so that not everyone could find one. Or something like that, it's been awhile and everything was kind of vague and barely comprehensible. Also, apparently having more or less than effectively two parents somehow harms childrens' freedoms. Just in case anyone wants even more idea how messed up that was.
(no subject) - tacit - May. 31st, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - May. 31st, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallingupthesky - Jun. 1st, 2009 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Jun. 2nd, 2009 12:15 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 31st, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Fleetwood Mac was not an "80s band". They were formed in the late 1960s and had quite a long span. While some of your logic about technology is sound, music is a very subjective experience.

Also, as you say, the irony kills. The Beatles (and George Martin) and the Beach Boys, whom you seem to dislike, came up with some of the multitrack and dubbing technologies that, several decades later, make DubFX able to do his thing.
May. 31st, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Fleetwood Mac was not an "80s band".

True. Fixed.

The Beatles (and George Martin) and the Beach Boys, whom you seem to dislike, came up with some of the multitrack and dubbing technologies that, several decades later, make DubFX able to do his thing.

Yep, that's true. I didn't express any opinion about their technical innovation; only that the particular song "I want to hold your hand" is unlikely to go down in history as the epitome of the literary wordsmith's art. I don't find that song to be a particularly compelling exploration of the human condition; it's brain candy, and that's what it was intended to be.
May. 31st, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
Bravo sir. I enjoyed this very much.
May. 31st, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
My only problem with the premise of your argument is that it is freeing but to a point.

For instance, a highly sophisticated car with a computer that handles many functions and luxuries certainly makes my life easier but, should it break, the more complicated and advanced it is the less likely I'll be able to fix it myself on my own. My dad can work on any car, pretty much, prior to 2000 or so because he understands the fundamental mechanics of cars but when you start getting into the models where computers are more involved, he neither has the knowledge or the tools in order to fix such vehicles.

In this way technology limits; by becoming so advanced that only certain individuals know how to fix/use a necessary item, we aren't exactly free. I can't take such vehicle to an older garage because they might not have the diagnostic tools necessary to fix problems on such a vehicle. Similarly, a technician, doctor, chemist, all of them may know how to USE a tool but not knowing how such a tool is made (a surgeon might know how to use a CyberKnife but couldn't put one together for instance) limits them in certain ways.

Now, that shouldn't be taken as a criticism of technology or That Such Things Should Not Be (tm) (because, honestly, fuck that, I like being able to have climate controlled interior, programmed seat positions, GPS, and an ass-warmer in my seat) but it does, in some ways, make me more reliant on certain people for the knowledge they possess.
May. 31st, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
Depending on someone else to fix your car doesn't seem to me to be something that encroaches on your freedom; even in a hunter-gatherer society, you have to depend on other people to do certain things. You depend on others to program your computer, design your cell phone (and make it work), supply you with electricity and running water, stock the store with food...

If you feel the desire to be self-sufficient in car repair, you can be. You can, if you choose, drive a car that doesn't have computers and electronic fuel injection (I drove a '66 Volkswagen Bug for many years, and got so good with tinkering with it that I could, unassisted, remove the engine from the car in less than fifteen minutes)...but if you do make that choice, you might find it to be less freeing than you think.

Two things about fixing your own car. First, you're still depending on other people to make the parts available, unless you have a machine shop available and can machine them yourself (and even then, you're still depending on others for the raw materials and the tools).

Second, choosing to work on your own car is a form of compulsion as well. It erodes your freedom to spend your time as you choose; when your car breaks down, if you don't want to let someone else fix it that means you're obligated to spend the time fixing it yourself. Often, you'll find that the amount of time you spend fixing it will be considerably greater than the amount of time you'd spend letting a shop fix it; no matter how good yu are as a mechanic, having a lift and pneumatic tools available makes things faster.

So the choice you're making isn't really between freedom and obligation; it's between giving up some measure of self-sufficiency or giving up control over your own time.
(no subject) - cuddlycthulhu - May. 31st, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 1st, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
That's a fair cop. I think that sentence was badly worded.

What I mean is that people who are opposed to technology and industrialization often seem to take up violence for their cause, but I have yet to see anyone take up violence in the cause of support of technology or transhumanism.

There are certainly people who love technology and are also violent, but transhumanism as a movement doesn't seem to lead to violence.
Jun. 1st, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
If someone is going to go through the effort of creating music, it should be because that person has something which he feels needs to be expressed.
The drums in the beginning of "Hot for Teacher" really were something that needed to be expressed. I couldn't care less about the lyrics.

Kaczynski wrote in his manifesto that people banding together in large groups is Bad And Wrong, because as soon as you depend on anyone else for something, you are no longer free.
Thomas Jefferson said much the same thing. This is why I try to pay more attention to Madison.
Jun. 1st, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Better Off by Eric Brende
Great post, tacit. If you want to learn a more nuanced view of Luddism, I recommend you read Eric Brende's book "Better Off." In it he points out the difference between a tool and a machine. He makes the case for eliminating most of our labor-saving devices. He lived among people he called minimites--quazi-Amish IMO. Anyway, it was a well-written, insightful book.
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